God’s solution to anxiety

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

As we begin 2021, we may be overwhelmed with anxiety. Perhaps we are anxious about the future especially with all the political and social unrest connected to the upcoming change in our government’s leadership in the USA. Many are anxious about the ongoing impact of the global pandemic. Our needs are greater than ever before. Due to social distancing and isolation, we cannot connect with one another as easily as we did before COVID-19. We may have greater physical needs due to the loss of our health, the loss of a job, and/or the loss of financial security. The additional stress caused by COVID increases the chance of conflict with one another. Emotional needs are much greater during this pandemic. There is more depression. More people feel hopeless and think of taking their own lives. All of these factors can increase our anxiety.

How does God want us to respond to these anxious times? The Lord gives us a solution to this struggle in Philippians 4:6-7, where the apostle Paul writes:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  

God says, “be anxious for nothing” (4:6a). What does God want us to worry about? Nothing. “How can I worry about nothing?” You might ask. God says “in everything by prayer” (4:6b). We can worry about nothing by praying about everything. The word “prayer” refers to talking to God. When we are “anxious” or worried about something, God instructs us to talk to Him about it through “prayer.” When was the last time you got alone with God and talked to Him about what you are worried about? Talking about it helps to diffuse the power of worry. But it does not stop there.

Then God says, “in everything by… supplication” (4:6c). The word “supplication” means to tell God what you need. Few people ever identify what they need because they are so busy worrying.

For example, some of us may be worried about our health. So we talk to the Lord about that. And as you do that, ask God to help you identify the underlying need. Perhaps we need protection from illness especially during COVID. Or perhaps we are afraid of death because we are not prepared for it. So we need assurance of life after death. Ask God to give you the assurance that there is everlasting life both now and after death through believing in Jesus (cf. John 11:25-26). So talk to the Lord about what you need from Him.

Next, God says, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6d). Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” The word “delight” means to lean into God.Just as a house plant leans in toward the sunlight coming through a window to get nutrients from the sun, so we need to lean into God during these challenging times to nourish our souls, and He promises to give us the desires or dreams of our hearts. So talk to God about your desires or dreams. Ask God what He wants to do in your life.

Notice that God wants you to pray with “thanksgiving.” He wants us to have a thankful heart. Why? Because when you trust God to supply your needs and wants in advance during difficult times, you can accept those circumstances and respond more appropriately. Also, gratitude stimulates the release of dopamine (happy chemical) in our brain which decreases our stress and enhances sleep.

Keep in mind that gratitude is a skill or learned behavior that is independent of our circumstances. Many people are overwhelmed with all the bad news in the world today. But it’s important to understand that we can increase our gratitude without seeing improvement in our situations. Try taking time each day to be aware of moments you may be tempted to overlook and thank God for them – such as your beating heart, each breath you take, the taste of Talapia (fish), the sound of birds in the morning, or the smile of a colleague. Take time to thank people during the day because it will also stimulate more dopamine to be released in your brain. It will also create stronger neuropathways in your brain containing thoughts of gratitude, so it will become easier to be grateful the more you practice this skill. What would happen to your anxiety if you spent time each day thanking God for His goodness in your life? No doubt your anxiety would decrease significantly.

As we talk to God about our anxiety, needs, and desires with thanksgiving, He promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). The “peace of God” is like a deep calmness in the midst of life’s storms. For example, the water underneath the surface of the ocean remains calm during a storm (see above photo). We can experience a deep-seeded calmness in our souls when we surrender to God in prayer as we face these challenging times.

The phrase “will guard,” pictures an armed soldier walking back and forth in front of the city gate, protecting the occupants inside the city from intruders. God’s peace constantly protects those who choose to talk to Him about their worries, and ask Him for what they need and want.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the unchanging promises of Your Word. When I focus on what is happening around the world, my heart can easily be overwhelmed with anxiety. But when I get alone with You and talk to You about my worries, You help me to identify the need underneath those worries so I can ask You to meet that need. There is no need in my life that is too great for You to meet. Thank You for reminding me to lean into You during these challenging times so you can nourish my soul and grant me the desires or dreams of my heart. There is so much to be thankful for at all times because of Your constant goodness to us! What peace fills my soul as I talk to You with thanksgiving about my worries, my underlying needs, and desires or dreams. Thank You for giving me Your peace which surpasses all human understanding when I surrender everyone and everything to You in prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 4

“But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” John 14:31

In our study of John 14:25-31, we have learned so far that we can calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world by focusing on…

– The promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26).

– The peace of Christ (John 14:27).

– The prophetic word of Christ (John 14:28-29).

Finally, we can calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world by focusing on THE PRESCRIBED WILL OF GOD (John 14:30-31). The night before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30). Jesus was not going to teach them much longer because Satan, “the ruler of this world,” was moving his forces against Christ through Judas.

Tony Evans explains how Satan became “the ruler of this world”: “When Adam and Eve sinned [Genesis 3:1-7], they gave up their role as king and queen, ruling creation on God’s behalf, and turned it over to Satan. Therefore, the devil is appropriately called ‘the ruler of this world,’ ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor 4:4), and ‘the ruler of the power of the air’ (Eph 2:2). He holds ‘the power of death’ and keeps people in slavery by ‘the fear of death’ (see Heb 2:14-15). But Satan had no power over Jesus (14:30) because Jesus is without sin. The Son of God became a man so that he might defeat the devil as a man and restore God’s kingdom rule.” 1

As the “ruler of this world,” Satan seeks to desensitize people to their need for God through the world system’s human governments, economies, educational systems, media, entertainment industries, and false religious systems. He will use these systems to manipulate peoples’ thoughts and feelings so they are drawn away from the true God and led down a path toward self-destruction.

When Jesus says that Satan “has nothing in Me” (John 14:30b), He is saying that the Devil has nothing in common with Him. There was no sin in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) for Satan to take hold of like there is in us. Because Jesus was and is God (John 1:1; 5:18-47; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28-29; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), Satan could not deceive Christ to yield to temptation (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). There had to be a perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world, and Jesus was that sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). “Satan thought Jesus’ death was a victory for him, but actually it was Jesus’ victory over Satan (John 16:11; Colossians 2:15).” 2 One day Jesus Christ is coming back to earth to restore His perfect rule on the earth (Psalm 2; Revelation 19:11-20:6). What a glorious day that will be!!!

Then Christ said, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (John 14:31). Jesus would enter this conflict with Satan not because He would be overpowered by the evil one, but because He was always obedient to His Father in heaven. Jesus’ death on the cross would show “the world” that He loves His Father. It shows His submission to His Father’s will (cf. Philippians 2:8). Christ could have avoided His enemies and the cross, but instead He was willing to face them as He says, “Arise, let us go from here.” Jesus could have said, “Arise, let us flee to the mountains for refuge while we still can!” But He does not. Instead, He calmly went to Gethsemane and the cross (cf. Luke 22:39-23:47; John 18:1-19:30) because He knew that He was doing the “commandment” that His Father “gave Him.

Likewise, if we know that we are doing what God has commanded us to do, we can calm our troubled hearts even when we face fierce opposition or difficult circumstances. But if we are deliberately living in disobedience to God’s commands, we cannot expect to calm our troubled hearts. In fact, we can expect to have more trouble and anxiety because we are not living as God wants us to live. His discipline may cause our hearts great anguish and pain (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Two artists set out to paint a picture representing perfect peace. The first painted a canvas depicting a carefree boy relaxing in a boat on a little placid lake without a ripple to disturb the surface. The second artist painted a raging waterfall with winds whipping the spray about. But on a branch of a tree overhanging the swirling waters a bird had built its nest and it sat peacefully brooding over her eggs. Here she was safe from her predatory enemies, shielded and protected by the roaring waterfall. This is real peace – the result of remaining calm in the midst of raging trials and difficulties in life. And this is the peace and calm that Jesus can give to us in a chaotic world when we focus on the promises of insight from the Holy Spirit, the peace of Christ, the prophetic word of Christ, and the prescribed will of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) Who can calm our troubled hearts amidst great stress in our chaotic world. Some of the stress we face is due to our disregard for God’s will in our lives. The more we disobey the Father’s will, the more chaos we will experience in our own lives as we try to live life independently of Him. Satan has designed the world system to mislead us away from You. Thank You for bringing me back to You, my Lord and my God. You are not only a perfect Savior, You are also a perfect Friend Who wants to calm our troubled hearts. But we are responsible to create space for You in our lives so we can focus our hearts and minds on Your promise of insight from the Holy Spirit, Your peace which surpasses human understanding, Your prophetic word about the future, and Your prescribed will for our lives. Thank You for helping us center our lives around You once again. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1805.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 325.

3. Many students of the Bible interpret Jesus’ words, “Arise, let us go from here” (John 14:31b), as an indication that Jesus ended His teaching here, and that He and the Eleven left the upper room immediately (see Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes, [1880 London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1958], pg. 211; Robertson, Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932], pg. 256; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV., Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, pg. 464.) They view the teaching and praying that we find in John 15-17, as happening somewhere on the way to Gethsemane – before Jesus’ arrest (cf. John 18:1). Some Bible students see this phrase referring not to a change in location but to a change in anticipation especially in view of John 18:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” Constable writes, “Anyone who has entertained people in their home, knows that it is very common for guests to say they are leaving, and then stay quite a bit longer before really departing. Why would John have recorded this remark if it did not indicate a real change of location? Perhaps he included it to show Jesus’ great love for His followers that the following three chapters articulate.  Another view is that when Jesus got up from the table, He prefigured His resurrection, and what follows in this discourse deals with post-resurrection realities: ‘There must be resurrection-life before there can be resurrection-fruit.’ The time of departure from the upper room is not critical to a correct interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. (see Dr. Tom Constable’s Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 279; cf. Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991], pg. 479; Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol II, [Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973], pg. 393).

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 3

“And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” John 14:29

Our world is huge!!! This is just one planet in our vast universe. Over 7.8 billion people live on this planet. It can be overwhelming to see all these people along with all the nations of our world, not to mention all the problems and pain. I don’t know if you have noticed lately, but the world is lost in total chaos! COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees in fear! Then there is the spread of terrorism, social and political unrest, shootings, kidnappings, road rage, flooding, earthquakes, sex scandals. There is a push toward globalism that some fear is a movement toward a one world government ruled by elitists. All of this is very troubling.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? We are learning from the Lord Jesus Christ how this can take place. So far we have discovered we can calm our troubled hearts by focusing on…

– The promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26).

– The peace of Christ (John 14:27).

Today we learn to calm our troubled hearts by focusing on THE PROPHETIC WORD OF CHRIST (John 14:28-29). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples the night before His crucifixion, “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28). Jesus’ upcoming departure still troubled His disciples. He explained that their troubled hearts are due to the fact that they do not “love”Him like He wanted them to. If they did love Him, they “would rejoice because” He said He was “going to the Father, for”His “Father is greater than” Him.

For Jesus loves His Father in heaven, and His upcoming departure to be with Him meant that his mission – the reason for which He had come into the world—was almost complete. 1  Laney says that “Bruce notes that the conjunction ‘for’ before ‘the Father is greater than I’ attaches to the preceding clause, ‘I am going to the Father.’ Jesus is on His way back to the Father who sent Him. Because ‘a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him’ (John 13:16), Jesus must render to the Father an account of His mission.” 2

What does Jesus mean when He says, “My Father is greater than I”? It is important to understand the gospel of John as a whole to properly understand individual verses. John has made it clear in his gospel that Jesus is equal with the Father as God (John 1:1; 5:18-47; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28-29). He cannot mean that He is a lesser deity than the Father as some false religions claim.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, and other Arians interpret Jesus’ words here this way. Arius was a heretic in the early church who denied Jesus’ full deity. Jesus was not speaking ontologically (i.e., dealing with His essential being, His nature), since He had affirmed repeatedly that He and the Father were one ontologically (1:1-2; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28).” 3 “God is one and there are no degrees of deity. Jesus and God the Father are one in essence” (John 10:30). 4

In John 14:28, Jesus is saying the Father had a “greater” position of glory in heaven while Jesus was in humble human form on earth. Jesus temporarily laid aside His glory that He possessed in eternity past (John 17:5) when He took the form of a bond servant on earth (Philippians 2:5-8). When Jesus says “My Father is greater than I,” He is talking about His Father’s office or role, not His nature.

For example, when I consider myself compared to the President of the United States, I would not hesitate to say that the President is greater than I. He is in charge of the entire nation and is one of the most powerful men in the world, whereas I am just a normal citizen. So the President is greater than I, far greater; but we are both equally human. In his essence, the President is just a human being, as am I, and in that sense we are equal. So when I say, “The President is greater than I,” I am referring to his office, not his essence. In office, he is greater than I; in essence, we are equal. Similarly, when Jesus says, “My Father is greater than I,” that does not mean Jesus is not God. The Father has a different role, a higher office than Jesus, but that does not mean the Father is greater in essence. They are both equal in essence. They are both God.

The disciples should have “rejoiced” that Jesus was going to His Father because, even though His departure meant loss for them, it meant a restoration of the glory and joy He once shared with His Father. Instead of thinking of Jesus’ best interests, they were only thinking of themselves. It wasn’t wrong for the disciples to grieve the upcoming loss of Jesus’ companionship and personal presence. But they were to grieve differently than unbelievers grieve. 5

We may experience a similar conflict of emotions when a believing family member or friend dies. We grieve our loss, but we can also rejoice now that our loved one is with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-18)! 6

Next Christ said, “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” (John 14:29). Jesus explains to His disciples that He has “told” them of His departure to go to His Father in heaven (John 14:28) before “it comes, that when it does come to pass,” they “may believe” in His Person and claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Although the disciples’ faith would falter immediately after Christ’s crucifixion (cf. Mark 16:11-14; Luke 24:11, 25, 37-38; John 20:19a, 24-25), their faith would be restored at Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and ascension to heaven (cf. Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52-53; John 20:26-29; Acts 1:1-11). Christ did not share of His departure to trouble their hearts. He shared this with them, so they would not be overtaken by surprise. The disciples’ faith would grow stronger after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (cf. John 13:19). The disciples would then view Jesus’ teaching here as fulfilled prophecy. 7

Fulfillment of Bible prophecy is a great source of comfort and support to believers during difficult times (cf. Isaiah 46:8-10). God has revealed everything we need to know about our future in His Word so that we can prepare for those events.

For example, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed many details about our future in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation (see above diagram). The apostle John writes, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3). God promises a special blessing for those who read, hear, and obey [“keep”] “the words of this prophecy [in the book of Revelation]because “the time [of the prophecy’s fulfillment] is near [it could happen at any moment]. Bible Prophecy is given to us not only to make us knowledgeable of things to come, but to help us PREPARE for them so we and others can be ready to face the Lord.

This reminds me of the TV show called Early Edition (1996-2000). The main character, Gary Hobson, is startled to open his door one day to find a cat sitting on a newspaper, a newspaper that has a publishing date of the next day. It wasn’t today’s newspaper, it was tomorrow’s newspaper distributed today. Every single day, Gary Hobson would receive the newspaper for the next day. So the TV show was called Early Edition because he received tomorrow’s news today. The point of the show was Gary trying to save people from the tragedy that was going to happen tomorrow because he received news about it today. So every day he was rescuing people and changing the destinies of people because he had received the Early Edition.

Jesus Christ has given us the Early Edition in Bible Prophecy. He is telling us today about what is going to happen tomorrow, so we can change the destiny of our tomorrow and the tomorrow’s of other people today. The tragedy is for us to receive God’s Early Edition and keep it to ourselves. God has given us the Early Edition about the world we live in, so we can influence its direction by how we choose to live today. You cannot know someone’s house is going to burn down tomorrow and then keep silent about it today. God has told us that people who do not trust in Jesus Christ alone for everlasting life will spend eternity burning in the Lake of Fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15). It is imperative that we warn people of this today, so they can escape an eternity separated from God before it is too late.

If you have not yet believed in Christ alone yet, then hear and believe God’s promise in John 3:36: He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” To believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, means to trust or depend on Him alone for His gift of everlasting life.

For example, believing in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride on an airplane as a passenger, do you have to push the plane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you have to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No, not at all. All you must do is trust a person – your pilot – to fly you to your destination. In the same way, Jesus is inviting you to trust in Him alone to get you to heaven. No amount of your good works can help Jesus get you to heaven. Simply believe or trust in Him alone Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, and He guarantees you a home in heaven in the future.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do – you can tell God this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear God, I have been overwhelmed with all of the chaos in the world today. Thank You so much for getting my attention with all the drama that is taking place on our planet. Thank You also for warning me of the lake of fire that awaits all those who reject Your Son, Jesus Christ. God, I know I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. As best I know how, I am now trusting in Jesus alone (not my good life, my prayers, nor my religion) to give me everlasting life now and a future home in heaven. Thank You so much for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

If you have already trusted Christ for His free gift or you just did trust in Him, please share this good news with everyone you meet and then train those who believe in Christ to follow Him as a disciple because we do not have much time left! To help you be trained in discipleship or to train others in discipleship, please download our English digital discipleship training materials above.

Rather than fretting about what tomorrow holds, focus on Who holds tomorrow in His hands. Psalm 31:14-15 says, “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.”

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 266 referencing F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), p 307, n. 15.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 277.

4. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 447.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 531.

6. Constable, Notes on John, pg. 277.

7. Ibid., pg. 278.

8. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 324.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 2

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 

I am currently reading a book by John Eldredge entitled Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For A World Gone Mad.” On the back cover of the book it asks, “When was the last time you felt carefree?” For some of us it may be impossible to remember such a time because we are constantly in a rush because we prefer distraction. Eldredge writes, “The more distracted we are, the less present we are to our souls’ various hurts, needs, disappointments, boredom, and fears. It’s a short-term relief with long-term consequences. What blows my mind is how totally normal this has become; it’s the new socially acceptable addiction.” 1

One of the biggest distractions in our culture today is the phone. We can’t leave home without it. We can’t sleep without it. Unfortunately, some people cannot drive their vehicle without looking at it. When our phone notifications sound off, everything else comes to a halt! I learned from Eldredge today that every notification triggers the brain’s learned response to check out what news had just come in. He quotes from Susan Weinschenk’s article, “Why We’re All Addicted to Texts, Twitter, and Google,” in Psychology Today, September 11, 2012:

“Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search…. It is the opioid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure…. The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking isn’t turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop [Dopamine Loop]. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied….  Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text…. The dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying ‘more more more,’ causing you to keep seeking even when you have found the information.” 2

We live in a society where people think you are crazy if you turn your phone off or fast from social media. But what would the Lord Jesus think of such practices? I believe He would applaud such disciplines because He understands that the world does not offer the kind of peace God wants His people to experience. To experience God’s peace, we must make space for God in our lives.

We are learning from Jesus how to calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world. The first way is to focus on the promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26). The second way to calm our troubled hearts is by focusing on THE PEACE OF CHRIST (John 14:27). Jesus not only promised the help of a Divine Teacher (John 14:26), but He also gave them peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). Christ refers to two kinds of peace in this verse. The first kind refers to His work on the cross. “Peace I leave with you.” The word “leave” (aphiēmi) implies something that Jesus does. Christ’s death on the cross would provide eternal “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) for us because all our sins would be forgiven (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). The Greek word for “peace” (eirēnēn) “is the spiritual well-being that results from being rightly related to God through Jesus Christ.” 3

Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered Satan’s control of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan can no longer use peoples’ fear of death to enslave them to his will. Christians can now face death with the same confidence in God the Father that Jesus had (cf. I Peter. 2:21-24). Believers are assured of peace with God forever (cf. Colossians 1:19-21). “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20b) means causing God’s former enemies to become His children by faith.

Who are God’s enemies? “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” (Colossians 1:21). Paul is referring to people as God’s enemies in this verse. You and I were His enemies before the Cross. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6). We need to be reconciled to God because of our sin. God does not need reconciling to us, we need reconciling to God. We turned away from God. He never moved. We moved. The people God created rebelled against their Creator and sinned so that death spread to all people because all sinned (Genesis 3:1-7; cf. Romans 3:23; 5:12-14, 18a).

Christ distinguishes His peace from the kind of peace the world can give – “not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27b). The world cannot offer eternal peace with God. The world denies that people need to be reconciled to God. The world says that people are inherently good because they are created in the image of God. “Because God loves everyone,” the world says, “There is no need for reconciliation with God.” The world offers a false peace to people. Sin has distorted God’s image in people. Some churches deny this because the world has influenced them to believe that people are inherently good and do not need a Savior.

The second type of peace in verse 27 is the kind that Jesus enjoyed on earth. He says, “My peace I give to you.” In the context (cf. John 14:21, 23), this peace of Christ’s is given to obedient believers. It arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.” 4  The world cannot give this kind of peace to us either.

The world offers a false peace that is deceptive and misleading. For example, a cartoon shows a man relaxing on his hammock near a tropical ocean. The sea appears to be as smooth as glass. A light breeze keeps the man comfortable. With his hand outstretched, he says to his wife, “Honey, hand me my tranquilizers, please.” This man has peace all around him, but he has no peace in his heart. The promises of the world are empty and powerless. The world says that more money, more possessions, more pleasure, more accomplishments, and power and fame will result in more peace. But we know of people with all these things who do not have inner peace.

Before we can possess this kind of peace, we must first receive peace “with God” through faith in Jesus for eternal life (Romans 5:1). Christ’s peace does not mean the absence of a storm. Jesus Himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) when He looked ahead to His crucifixion. He was “troubled” when He focused on Judas’ betrayal (John 13:21). Most people can be at peace when nothing is wrong. But Jesus is speaking of peace in the midst of the storm. This peace is a deep-seated calmness that stems from Christ’s presence and purpose in our lives. On the surface, you may feel uneasy and anxious in the midst of life’s storms, but deep down in your heart there is a calmness because you believe God is in control of all events.

For example, there may be a storm blowing over the surface of the ocean. But deep beneath the surface there is a calmness that is unaffected by the storm above. Jesus does not merely wish His disciples peace; He gives them His peace. No matter how troubled your heart is, and some of us may be deeply troubled – Jesus’ peace can calm your heart. Christ can give us peace in the midst of tribulation – at a time when we shouldn’t have any peace. This, of course, doesn’t come from the world.

It is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). When you face a storm, talk to Jesus Who can calm the storm in your heart with His spoken word. The One who calmed the wind and the waves with the words, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39), can also calm the emotional winds and waves that trouble our hearts. Keep your mind focused on Him. The Bible promises, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Next Jesus said,Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27c). In the coming hours, the disciples would have good reason to be “troubled.” Likewise, we will have experiences that prompt us to be afraid. But with a sovereign God ruling the world and “the peace of Christ” ruling in our hearts (cf. Colossians 3:15), we can overcome the storms that often trouble our hearts. 5

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful for the peace I now have with God which You made possible through the shedding of Your blood on the cross for all my sins. The world offers temporary peace through denial and escapism, but You offer lasting peace that is grounded in Your presence and purposes. Your peace escapes me when I seek to control situations and people. But when I surrender everything and everyone to You and refocus on Your promises, Your peace that surpasses human understanding floods my soul. Thank You for keeping Your promises. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For A World Gone Mad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020), pg. 47.

2. Ibid., pg. 46.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 265.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

5. Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 4

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6

We live in a world today that teaches there are many different ways to God. Many people insist that all religions lead to the same God (Universalism). Is this true? The God of the Bible has told us Himself  that “besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). If God had said there are many ways to Himself, then, yes, there are many ways to Him. But He has not said that. He says that He alone is the “savior.” 

In our verses today, the Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He is the only way to God the Father in heaven. This is essential for us to understand if we are going to find peace under pressure. So far we have learned that we can find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promises of peace of heart, a prepared place in heaven, and His presence in heaven. The fourth and final way is to focuson Jesus’ PROMISE OF A PREPARED PATH TO HEAVEN (John 14:4-6) for those who believe in Him.

Christ makes it clear in response to Thomas’ question that for anyone to enjoy the prepared place in heaven, he must know the prepared path to heaven. “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:4). Jesus affirms that the disciples “know” both “where” Jesus is going and “the way” to get there. Throughout His ministry Jesus had taught His disciples the way to heaven.

Now Peter had an answer to his question, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a). Christ was going to His Father’s house. Even though He must first go alone, He would return and take them to His Father’s House where they would be with Him forever. This seems to have satisfied Peter as he asked no further questions. But Thomas did not fully understand what Jesus was saying.

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ ” (John 14:5). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s House. Thomas renews the doubt about Jesus’ destination including the path that would take one there. Thomas was honest and uninhibited as he expresses his confusion. Jesus had said they could not come with Him at this time (John 13:33, 36b). How then can they know the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6). Since Jesus is going to the Father’s House, He now makes it clear that He is “the way” to His Father’s home. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of understanding and we must not either. We are to be gracious with those who may not see things as we do.

The Lord explains to Thomas, “I am the way” to My Father’s House. Jesus did not say He was “a way” to heaven, leaving open the possibility of other ways to heaven which is commonly taught today. There is only one “way” to heaven and that is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 10:9; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

Many people today think there is more than one way to God. They are placing their trust in people or religions that will only lead to eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Jesus warned His disciples that there are many “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) who stand in front of the “broad… way” that “leads into destruction” (Matthew 7:13). These false prophets are dressed in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and appear to be Christians.

But Jesus will refuse to let them into heaven because they were trusting in their confession of Jesus’ lordship (“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ”Matthew 7:21) and their works that they did in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’” – Matthew 7:22). They were not permitted entrance into “the kingdom of heaven” because they failed to do “the will of” the “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is believing in Christ alone for everlasting life: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32).

Jesus said you may know these false prophets by “their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20) which are their “words,” not their works (Matthew 12:33-37). Any teacher who says you can go to heaven through some other way than faith alone in Christ alone, is a false prophet and must be avoided (cf. I Timothy 6:3-5).

When Jesus said, “I am the truth,” He is referring to the truth about the Father. Even though the disciples may have felt strange going to His Father’s House because they had not met the Father, yet since they knew Jesus, they did know the Father as well because Jesus and the Father “are one” (John 10:30). To see and know Jesus was to know and see the Father because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father as God the Son (John 14:7-11; cf. 1:1; 12:44-45).

As “the truth,” we can believe in Christ’s promise of everlasting life to those who believe in Him (John 3:15-16; 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26) because He never tells a lie. He is always faithful to keep His promises.

When Jesus said,“I am the life,” He was saying that He is the only Person who can provide “the life” or relationship (John 1:4, 12; 5:21; 17:3) that is needed to come to the Father’s House. Jesus claims that He is the exclusive way to the Father, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The path to heaven is a Person – Jesus Christ Himself. You can begin a personal relationship with Him simply by believing in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:15-16; 17:3).

Jesus’ claims in this verse are very personal. Jesus did not merely claim to know “the way, the truth, or the life” as if it is some formula to give to the ignorant. He claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”

One continuing concern about American tax structure is the problem of loopholes. Some people spend more time looking for loopholes than they do figuring how much tax they owe. Corporations hire experts to look for legal ways to avoid taxes – and they find them. The result for the U.S. government is the loss of millions of dollars – all because of loopholes.

Some people develop a “loophole mentality” in their relationship to God. For example, when comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was on his deathbed, a visitor found him reading the Bible. Asked what he was doing, he replied, “Looking for loopholes, my friend. Looking for loopholes.” 1

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that we must believe in Him alone as our Savior (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6). But some people secretly feel that when they die and stand before the judgment seat they will find some other way to get in. They refuse to believe the Bible’s teaching that salvation is through Christ alone (John 3:5, 15-16; 14:6; Acts 4:12) and that eternal punishment awaits those who reject Christ (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15). They have convinced themselves that they will somehow escape the final judgment and its terrible consequences.

But they are wrong. Jesus is the only “way” to heaven. According to Jesus Christ, there are no other ways to God the Father. You may ask, “What right does Jesus have to make such an exclusive claim?” The Bible affirms that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.”  2 

The early followers of Jesus made it clear that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) other than Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:10-11). The Bible, God Himself, and His followers teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe or teach something else means you must deal with the authority of the Bible and the credibility of Jesus Christ. 3

If you have never understood and believed this, listen to what God says in Isaiah 45:22: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” God the Son, Jesus Christ, now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from eternal death and give you His free gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13).

When you believe in Christ, He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 5:5; 8:9-11; I Corinthians 6:19; 12:13; Galatians 3:2; 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14). Then you can begin to experience His promise of peace of heart and look forward to a prepared place in heaven where you can enjoy His presence forever unhindered by sin and shame. But it all begins when you realize and accept that the only way to heaven is through a Person – Jesus Christ Himself.

If you have never made the decision to believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can do so right now because there are no loopholes. You can simply tell God through prayer that you are now believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as your only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I now realize that You are the only way to heaven. You proved this through Your words and works, the greatest of which was when You died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. Lord Jesus, I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life) to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

If you just believed in Jesus as your only hope of heaven, we would love to hear from you. Simply send a message to us through the “Contact Us” page. To grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore this website or www.knowing-jesus.com. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. See Our Daily Bread, October 5, 2002 – https://odb.org/2002/10/05/looking-for-loopholes/.

2. Arnold Thomas, Sermons on the Christian Life – Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pg. 324.

3. See EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 776.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 3

“I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3b

We are learning from John 14:1-6 how we can find peace under pressure. Not only can we find peace under pressure by focusing on Jesus’ promise of peace of heart (John 14:1) and a prepared place in heaven (John 14:2-3a), but also on the PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE IN HEAVEN (John 14:3b). Jesus had briefly referred to the mansions He would prepare for us in heaven (John 14:2-3a). We might have expected Jesus to give more details about His preparations, relieving any anxiety His disciples might have felt. Instead He emphasized His presence, not His preparation.

Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3b). In Jesus’ mind, what would make heaven so special is that they would be with Him and He with them. Yes, Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven. But all the beauty of that place will not match the beauty of His presence.

One Saturday, a dentist went to his office to give treatment to a patient and took his dog along with him. Leaving the dog in the waiting room, the dentist examined his patient. After treating him, he spoke to him about the Lord. As they talked, the patient commented, “Sometime I wish you could show me what heaven is going to be like.” The dentist answered, “I think I can and I think I can do it now.”

Going to the door, he called his dog who immediately came running and sat down at the dentist’s feet. As the dentist cupped his hands beneath the dog’s head, the dog rested his head in his owner’s hands and stared into the face of his lord and master. The dentist said to his patient, “This is what I think heaven will be like. We will be looking in to the face of our Lord and Master.”

The greatest blessing of going to heaven is not the splendor of that wonderful place, but being in the presence of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Enjoying ceaseless personal fellowship with Christ is what will make heaven so special. This is why the apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Life on earth for Paul was focused on the all-consuming Lord Jesus Christ. But he saw death as “gain” or an advantage because then He would be face-to-face in the presence of the most important Person in his life – Jesus Christ. This is what Paul lived for and it is what we can live for as well.

I love the chorus in the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” written by Helen Howarth Lemmel:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for emphasizing Your presence in heaven, not Your preparation of that incredible place. We were created to enjoy a personal relationship with You more than anything else. Lord, it is difficult for me at times to rest my head upon Your shoulder because I believe the lie that my value comes from doing instead of being. Please teach me to calm and quiet my soul in Your loving presence. I want to know more deeply the rest and security of being in the presence of Your tender care. Oh how I look forward to being with You in heaven where sin and shame will no longer be present and I will be overcome with Your perfect love. Please help me to keep my eyes on You now so the darkness of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of Your glory and grace. In Your marvelous name I pray. Amen.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 2

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” John 14:2-3a

With the rise in COVID-19 cases recently, it is no surprise that the primary complaint among people in the United States is stress. Add to this the social and political unrest along with the effects of COVID (ex. loss of jobs/income, more isolation, cancellations or postponements of vacations/travel, etc.), and you have a recipe for deep distress. We need to find relief from the constant pressure we are facing every day.

In John 14:1-6, we are learning to find peace under pressure. The first way is to focus on Christ’s promise of a peace of heart (John 14:1). Today we discover that we are to focus on CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PREPARED PLACE IN HEAVEN (John 14:2-3a) for those who believe in Him.

Jesus said to His eleven disciples, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). Jesus explains why His disciples can trust in Him even during His absence. The separation which would result from Jesus’ departure would not be permanent, it was only temporary: “A Jewish betrothal meant that a man and woman were legally bound in marriage. Before the actual presentation of the bride to the bridegroom, the bridegroom would busy himself preparing a place in his father’s house for the bride. Using this imagery Christ said to these men,” 1 “In My Father’s house are many mansions.”

Where is God the Father now? We know from Jesus’ model prayer that He is in heaven. Christ taught, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Heaven is where God now resides and rules (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-5:14). The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages:

1. With Christ in the third heaven before or after the Rapture – the sudden removal of the church from the earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; 12:1-4; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-5:14). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven. Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19). At the end of the Tribulation period…

2. The Earthly Kingdom of Christ will be established when the church will return with Christ and be on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).  At the end of that thousand years there will be a…

3. New Heaven and New Earth where all believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

Jesus describes our future home as a large house in heaven where there are “many mansions” (John 14:2). The word translated “mansions” (monē) comes from the verb “to abide” (menō) which would mean an abiding place of permanent rest. This could refer to apartments or suites in God’s house. Cook shares, “The picture is of each child having a suite of rooms in the Father’s house. All will be with the Father, enjoying His hospitality and sharing His love.” 2

Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth (Revelation 21-22) after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Yes, Jesus was leaving them, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, 4  so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

When I went on a mission trip to a province in the southern Philippines (July 2016), I went to an evacuation center where refugees lived whose homes were destroyed in the recent Muslim war. As we walked around the center, we noticed that the people were not only homeless, but they were also hopeless. After obtaining permission from a village leader to share with these seventy-five people, my translator and I told them that God loves them so much that He wants to give them a permanent home in heaven which no one can destroy nor take away from them. The people listened intently but showed no emotion as we talked about our problem that separates us from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) and God’s only solution through the Lord Jesus (John 14:6; I Corinthians 15:3-6)!      

After explaining that Jesus now invites everyone to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life (John 3:16b), we then told them they could tell God they were now trusting in Jesus (Isa – the Muslim name for Jesus) by repeating this prayer after us. As we began to pray, we noticed that the people would not repeat the prayer aloud. Instead, they raised their hands toward heaven – something Muslims normally do when they pray to God.

I got goose bumps later when I saw a photo of them raising their hands during the prayer because I had no idea they did this while we actually prayed because my eyes were closed. After praying with them, we asked the people to raise their hands if they just trusted in Jesus (Isa) for their eternal home in heaven. My heart was filled with joy as sixty-five of the seventy-five people lifted their hands! What a thrill to be able to assure them that because of their faith in Isa, they now have everlasting life which can never be lost or taken away from them (John 6:47; 10:28-29). No one is more powerful than God so that no one can destroy or take away His home for them in heaven (John 10:28-29; 14:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six 24-hour days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people who have believed in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

Christ said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” Christ assures His disciples (and us), that His separation which had so distressed them, would not be permanent. They could look forward to a blessed reunion with Jesus. One day He would come as a Bridegroom for His bride, the church, and take them to the place He had been preparing for them in heaven during His absence. His return was as certain as His departure. He would take them with Him to His Father’s house.

The phrase, “I will come again and receive you to Myself,” is not a reference to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any moment, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

The fact that Jesus has been gone almost two thousand years preparing our future home in heaven leads me to believe that we cannot begin to imagine how wonderful that place will be. In America at the turn of the twentieth century, people who were poor and homeless were moved into “poorhouses.” These institutions were considered to be just about the worst place a person could live.

A doctor was visiting an elderly woman who was dying in such a home. Because of her surroundings, he was greatly surprised to hear her whisper, “Praise the Lord.” So the doctor leaned over and said to her, “How can you possibly praise God here in a poorhouse?” She responded, “That’s easy. I just keep thinking about the move into my heavenly mansion.”

The assurance that a wonderful home, the “Father’s house,” awaited her – in contrast to the depressing poorhouse – gave her cause for praise in spite of her poverty. Heaven is so glorious that human language cannot adequately describe it. Even though the apostle John described the heavenly city in Revelation 21 and 22, our finite minds fail to comprehend the full splendor of what he saw. Jesus loves us so much He is preparing a magnificent place for each of us who have trusted in Christ alone for everlasting life. The more we focus on this prepared place, the more peace we will find while living under pressure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that this earth is not my final home. What a wonderful place you are preparing for believers to live in the future. I cannot begin to imagine just how magnificent that place will be! Thank You for Your promise to come back again and receive me to Yourself. What a glorious day that will be when I can be with You forever in the Father’s house. Knowing that You could come back at any moment to take me to be with You in heaven, motivates me to live for You right now. The splendor of that place overshadows the darkness that is on this planet right now. In the Father’s house sin and shame will not be present. The Father’s love will overflow into every room. Death will be gone and life will abound. Hallelujah, Lord Jesus! Hallelujah! In Your matchless name I praise and pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. P J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 436.

2. W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John (Chicago: Moody, 1979), pp. 229-230.

3. ei de mē is a second class condition which expresses that the condition is unfulfilled – see Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

4. Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, pg. 436.

How can we find peace under pressure? Part 1

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 

Opinions about heaven vary in the United States and around the world, but the facts are made clear in the Bible. What the Bible says about heaven is very important for people who find themselves in deep distress. Perhaps someone close to you dies or is near death. Maybe someone dear to you has an injury, an accident, or disease and may not pull through. You may have stress at home, work, with money or the lack thereof, and you are deeply troubled by this. Life has pain and pressure in it and we cannot escape that fact. During these times of deep distress, only words spoken from the very heart of God can meet our deepest needs and comfort our aching hearts.

The disciples of Christ, like we today, found themselves deeply troubled. The disciples’ whole world seemed to be crumbling around them. They had just been told by the Lord Jesus that one of them would betray Christ (John 13:21-30) and that their leader, Peter, was going to deny three times that he ever knew the Lord (John 13:38). Imagine the reaction of some of the disciples when they were told this about Peter. “Not Peter. He is our leader! We look to him for leadership and yet You say he is going to fail You, Lord!?! If Peter stumbles, what about the rest of us?” (cf. Matthew 26:31). Jesus had also announced that He was leaving them and it would be impossible for them to go with Him (John 13:33, 36).

During their three and a half years together, the disciples had grown to depend upon the Lord Jesus to meet their every need. Jesus had assumed a role much like that of a father – providing, protecting, guiding, and instructing these men as children. Now the Lord tells them He is about to leave them? Everything seems to be happening at once. Everything seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Yet Jesus’ words to them remain to give everlasting comfort and revelation to those in distress. In John 14:1-6, we will find peace under pressure by focusing on…

CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PEACE OF HEART (John 14:1). Jesus looks at the stunned look on His disciples’ faces and with a gentle and compassionate voice He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1). Jesus is saying, “Stop being troubled.” This word means “to shake together, stir up, disturb, distress.” A storm was raging in the hearts of these men. Their hearts were tossed like waves in the wind by the words of Jesus, and why not? He had said He was leaving them (John 13:33, 36), that He would die (John 13:31-32), that one of them was a traitor (John 13:21), that Peter would disown Him (John 13:38), and that all of them would fall away (Matthew 26:31). They sensed something major was going to happen and their hearts were afraid.

Jesus did not condemn them for this as He knew what it was like to have a “troubled” heart (cf. John 11:33; 13:31) where this same word was used of Him. Our Savior experienced every emotion that we experience (John 11:33). He wept with those who grieved. He experienced the sorrow that death brings. He felt angry when His Father’s temple was corrupted (John 2:13-16). He felt the pain of being rejected by one of His own disciples (John 13:21). He understands and wants us not to be troubled, but to trust Him, to lean upon Him. Christ does not condemn us for having troubled hearts. He offers relief by trusting in Him. How do you spell relief? T-R-U-S-T.

The solution to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus. Christ says, “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” Christ is making two statements here: “You believe in God, you also believe in Me.” These eleven believing disciples already believed “in God” by believing in the One whom God sent for everlasting life (John 5:24), 3  since Jesus has the same divine nature and purpose as God the Father. 4 But now they were to “keep on believing” in Jesus to find His peace in their hearts.

When we trust in Jesus, He promises peace of heart. As we take our minds off of what is troubling us and redirect them on to Christ, His peace fills our hearts. This is peace that surpasses all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

In 1999, my wife and I learned that her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer. He was only given two weeks to live. In all the time my wife and I had been with her father, he never talked about his faith. His generation considered this to be a very private matter and did not usually speak openly of such things.

Being very concerned about his eternal destination, we drove four hours from central Iowa to St. Paul, Minnesota, to visit him on his deathbed in the hospital. When we arrived there, both his family and the hospital staff were amazed at the peace Pat’s father displayed even though he was in great pain and facing imminent death. When we were alone with him, Pat and I asked him if he would go to heaven when he died. He paused and began to shake in his hospital bed. At first, I thought he was crying. But as I watched him, it became obvious that he was laughing so hard no sound was coming out of his mouth. After his laughter calmed down, Pat’s father assured us he had trusted in Christ when he was a child and that he knew he was destined to be with Jesus in heaven when he died. My wife and I were overcome with joy as we learned of this wonderful news!

Many times in life, human understanding fails us because we cannot see as God sees. But as we trust in Jesus, He gives us perfect peace, peace in the midst of our deepest pain, peace in the midst of our greatest fears. Jesus brings us peace because we know that something much better than this life awaits us after death.

Pat’s father had this assurance. Do you? If not, you can find this assurance by transferring all your trust onto Jesus Christ for His free gift. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting.” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking you to live a good life or pray every day, because He did NOT say, “He who lives a good life or prays every day has everlasting life.” He is asking you to BELIEVE IN HIM because He said, ““He who believes in Me has everlasting.” Everlasting life is a free gift because Jesus paid for it all when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). All you must do is believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of everlasting life. If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

“DearLord Jesus,I come to you as a sinner who is deeply distressed. My life seems so out of control. I believe You demonstrated Your love for me when You died on a cross in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life. Thank You for the peace I now have with You. Thank You for everlasting life. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

For those of us who believe in Jesus, please join me in this prayer to Christ.

“Lord Jesus, like Your disciples, there is much in our world that causes a storm to rage in our hearts right now. Many of us are distressed with an increase in COVID cases, social unrest, political divisions, and numerous other factors that are out of our control. Thank You for bringing us back to You so our fears can be replaced with faith in You – the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe, the One Who calms the wind and the waves of turmoil in our lives. Thank You for Your peace which is independent of our circumstances and feelings. We love love You, Lord Jesus. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.”

ENDNOTES:

1. The present imperative verb tarassesthō (ταρασσέσθω) with the negative particle mē (μὴ) means to “stop being troubled” – see  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 253.

2. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures In the New Testament, Vol. V, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 443.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (pg. 1801). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

How does Jesus lead us to victory? Part 2

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’ ” John 12:14-15

God wants to lead us to victory through His Son, Jesus Christ. We saw last time that He does this through Jesus’ resurrection power (John 12:9-11). Today we see that He also does this BY PROVIDING A SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH (John 12:12-15). The following verses (John 12:12-19) are traditionally known as Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. All four gospels record this event (cf. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44).

“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.” (John 12:12). “The next day” probably refers to Monday when the Passover lamb was selected and set aside to be slain and eaten for the Passover. 1 Jesus was going to Jerusalem to be sacrificed as our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God (John 1:29; cf. I Corinthians 5:7). To His disciples, this did not seem like a Triumphal Entry. They may have thought to themselves, “Yes, Lord there are many who have believed in You, but the religious leaders, the ones with a lot of power, do not believe in You. In fact, they want to kill You and Lazarus. How can this be a triumphal entry when there is a warrant out for Your arrest? Where is the victory in this?!”

Prior to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Luke tells us that Jesus, 31…took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him.’” (Luke 18:31-33). Now Jesus is saying, “Let’s go up to Jerusalem and have a Triumphal Entry!” The disciples are saying, “Wait a minute, Lord. You call this a Triumphal Entry?”

John informs us that “a great multitude… had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.” (John 12:12). Ellicott describes the scene as the Lord entered Jerusalem:

“It is not hardly possible to form a just conception of the appearance which Jerusalem and its vicinity must have presented at the season of the Passover. All the open ground near the city and perhaps the sides of the very hill down which our Lord had recently passed were now, probably, being covered with the tents and temporarily erected structures of the gathering multitudes, who even thus early would have most likely found every available abode in the city completely full. We are not left without some data of the actual amount of the gathered numbers, as we have a calculation of Josephus based upon the number of lambs sacrificed (256,500), according to which it would appear that even at the very low estimate of 10 persons to each lamb the number of people assembled must have been little short of 2,700,000, without taking into consideration those who were present but incapacitated by legal impurities from being partakers in the sacrifice… There would thus have been present not much short of half of the probable population of Judea and Galilee… These observations are not without importance considered theologically. They show that our Lord’s rejection and death is not merely to be laid to the malevolence of the party of the Sanhedrin and to the wild clamors of a city mob, but may justly be considered, though done in partial ignorance (Acts 3:17), the act of the nation. When Pilate made his proposal, it was to the multitude (Mark 15:9), and that multitude we know was unanimous (John 18:40).” 2

The Passover “feast” would be followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. When this “great multitude… heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem” they were eager to see what was going to happen. Perhaps it seemed to some of them that Jesus was defying the Sanhedrin who were plotting to put Him to death (cf. 11:53). “When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ ” (John 12:12b-13).

This great crowd “took branches of palm trees,” which signified a triumph or victory. This was a way of honoring and respecting a conqueror. 4  Perhaps they were honoring Jesus because He conquered death by raising Lazarus. When the people “cried out: ‘Hosanna!’ ” (Ὡσαννά), this originally meant “Save now we pray.” 5  They wanted Jesus to deliver them from the domination of Rome! The words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The king of Israel” are from Psalm 118:26 which speaks of the presentation of Israel’s Messiah-God. They see Jesus as their Messiah because of the manifestation of His Messianic power when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

“Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written…” (John 12:14).  John informs us that Jesus “found a young donkey.” Imagine what the disciples are thinking. “You want to find a young donkey?! I thought conquerors ride a stallion or war horse? Instead of riding a stallion, You are going to ride a young donkey? We are not sure we understand this triumph You are bringing to us. The prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14) says the Messianic Son of Man will come on the clouds, not a young donkey. What kind of triumph are you bringing to Israel?”

The donkey was a symbol of peace and gentleness. In Luke’s account of the Triumphal Entry, we read that the people cried out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). Christ came to bring “peace in heaven” at His First Coming by suffering on the Cross. Remember when Jesus was born, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Peace on earth will take place when Jesus returns to earth as King at His Second Coming. The First Coming of Christ brought spiritual peace in heaven through the cross. The Second Coming of Christ will bring peace on earth when Jesus rules as King of kings and Lord of lords! The first triumph of Christ was a spiritual or an inward triumph in the heavens. The second triumph of Christ will be on earth and it will be an outward, material triumph, subjecting the nations of the earth to His rule so that there will be universal peace among all people.

Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, He told His disciples, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’ ” (Luke19:30-31). By doing this, the Lord is letting His disciples know that He is in control. It was like the Lord already talked to these people and set the whole thing up. “I have planned this entry into Jerusalem even though I am going there to be crucified.”

John tells us that Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey had been planned for centuries. “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:15). When Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, He fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. God is in control. He had this planned hundreds of years earlier. He planned on bringing a spiritual triumph through His Son’s death on the cross to establish peace in heaven.

We may be looking for a material triumph instead of a spiritual triumph. That is not God’s primary concern right now. We are not going to defeat the world. Christ will do that at His Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21). He will subject the world to His rule then (Psalm 2; Revelation 20:1-6). You and I are not going to bring the entire world under the will of God. Christians may try to force a material triumph, but that will only lead to more frustration.

Two times the word for “triumph” (θριαμβεύω) is used in the New Testament. Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” The death of Jesus did three things to the spiritual rulers of darkness. It disarmed them, displayed them, and dethroned them. One Bible commentator says this about the verse: “The picture, quite familiar in the Roman world, is that of a triumphant general leading a parade of victory…” 7 Another commentator writes: “It is more natural to view the principalities and powers here as the defeated foes, driven in front of the triumphal chariot as involuntary and impotent witnesses to their conqueror’s superior might.” 8

The cross of Jesus Christ provided a spiritual triumph, not a material triumph. Jesus is Head of a new humanity, a new group of people called the Church, who can respond to evil differently than the rest of the world. As the Son of God, He defeated the spiritual forces of darkness. We are now “in Christ” as believers and we are meant to enjoy this triumph.

The second use of this word for “triumph” (θριαμβεύω) is found in 2 Corinthians 2:14 which says: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” God is the One who takes us and leads us into the triumph of Christ. What am I supposed to do then? Start thanking God for your spiritual triumph. As we yield to the Lord and thank Him, He is going to lead us into the triumph of Jesus which is a spiritual or inward triumph. We may want a material triumph. We tell ourselves, if I could just be released from jail or have the perfect car, job, health, spouse, family, friends, and church, then I will be fulfilled. But there is no life in that kind of existence.

Where do you think the resurrection life of Jesus is seen? It is more often seen in the things that do not go the way we want them to go. That is where God works. That is where we will see resurrection life. God resurrects that which has died, including our attitudes. His resurrection power wants to transform our negative attitudes into positive ones which emit the fragrance of Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I must admit that I am a lot like the disciples. I also can look for a material triumph instead of a spiritual triumph. I can look for victory in my external circumstances instead of in my internal attitudes. I can so easily believe the lie that says, “If you are a Christian, everything will go smoothly in life. You will have no more difficulties or trials.” Please forgive me, my Lord and my God, for looking in the wrong places for Your victory. Your First Coming provided a spiritual triumph on the cross whereby peace with God in heaven was made possible through Your shed blood. Thank You, that I now have peace with the Lord God of heaven and earth through faith in You, Jesus. You now live inside me through Your Holy Spirit Who can enable me to respond in a God-honoring manner to the evil that is flourishing in the world today. I am now trusting You to lead me into this spiritual triumph that can manifest Your fragrance or attitude in all I think, say, and do. Yes, I am looking forward to Your Second Coming which will usher in Your material triumph whereby all nations will be brought under Your rule, and there will be peace on earth among all cultures and countries forever! But until then, my focus remains on You to lead me into spiritual victory! In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 224.

2. C. J. Ellicott, Historical Lectures on the Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (London: Longman’s Green, 1896) pg. 289, footnote.

3. Laney, pg. 224.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 220.

5. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979),  pg. 899; cf. Laney, pg. 224.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary [TGNTC], Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 432.

7. Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians.” In Ephesians-Philemon. Vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), pg. 202.

8. F. F. Bruce, “Colossians Problems,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 563:298-99.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 2

51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:51-52

After Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many Jews who had come from Jerusalem to console the family of Lazarus (John 11:28-44), many of those Jews believed in Jesus for everlasting life (John 11:45) while some began to plot against Christ (John 11:46-48). We are learning from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. The first principle we learned is that plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48). Today we learn the second principle which is to REALIZE THAT GOD USES THE PLOTS OF MAN TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES (John 11:49-53).

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all.’ ” (John 11:49). No man comprehended the situation better than Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas. He was the high priest “that [fateful] year.” He served as high priest from 18-36 A.D. Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience.” 2 Caiaphas’ first words reflect rudeness to his fellow Sanhedrin members, “You know nothing at all.” Rudeness was common among the Sanhedrin members. He correctly observes that they have no solution to their problem.

Caiaphas then proposed a solution to their problem. “… Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50). The Sanhedrin could not figure out that it would be to their advantage, and that is what they cared the most about, that Jesus die at the hands of the Romans instead of the entire nation. Caiaphas proposed the death of Christ as a solution to the immediate political problem. Politicians are often willing to sacrifice the other guy for their own benefit. Ironically, “their rejection of Jesus did not solve their problem. The Jewish people followed false shepherds into a war against Rome (A.D. 66-70), which did in fact destroy their nation.” 3

John then explains that Caiaphas’ words were prophetic. “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” (John 11:51). What Caiaphas meant to be cynical political realism; God meant to be understood in a deeper, more significant way. Caiaphas only had political interests in mind, whereas God had spiritual interests in mind (Acts 4:27-28). The prophetic quality of Caiaphas’ words is attributed to his priestly office, not his personal character. Because of Caiaphas’ office, God spoke providentially through him even though Caiaphas was not conscious of his word’s spiritual significance. Jesus’ death would be in place of the Jewish nation. If He would die, they would live. Christ would be their Substitute.

A former Thai navy seal diver, Saman Gunan, heroically died on July 6, 2018, while placing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of a cave flooded by monsoon rains in Thailand where twelve boys (ages 11 to 16) and their soccer coach were trapped since June 23, 2018. Eventually the entire soccer team was rescued between July 8 – 10, 2018. Saman died so this soccer team and their coach could live. Out of love for these boys and their coach, he laid down his life for them. Likewise, Jesus Christ loved you and me so much that He died on a cross as our Substitute for our sins so we could live forever the moment we believe in Him (John 3:14-16).

But there is more. Caiaphas continued, “And not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52). Caiaphas’ words were not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John has a world-vision in mind. This refers to uniting Jews and Gentiles around the world into“one” body, the church (cf. John 10:16; cf. Ephesians 2:14-18; 3:6). Sin scatters people, but the Savior unites them. Only Christ can unite the nations and cultures of the world into one body. Governments cannot do this. The United Nations cannot bring world peace nor can Black Lives Matter. But Jesus Christ can because He changes people from the inside out.

“Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.” (John 11:53). The Sanhedrin concurs with Caiaphas’ proposal. They seriously plot to kill Jesus. An old purpose (John 5:18; 7:19, 44-45; 8:59; 10:31, 39) was revived with fresh energy due to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. What these wicked men planned for evil, God providentially intended for good.  

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? After Joseph’s father, Jacob, died, his brothers fear that the only thing that has kept Joseph from taking revenge on them has been his respect for his father. So, they come to Joseph begging for forgiveness – even though he gave them that forgiveness many years earlier. How does Joseph respond? Does he avenge the wrongs that they did to him?

He said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a).  Joseph doesn’t try to rewrite history saying, “Oh, I know you guys didn’t mean it.” He is honest – “You guys tried to harm me – but God intended your harm for good.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This “all things” means “all things” – including people’s evil intentions, their desire to cause harm, and sin. This is an absolutely amazing promise from God! Nobody can do anything to you that God cannot bring good from.

We see it clearly in Joseph’s life – sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned – which was exactly where, in the strangest kind of way, Pharaoh, would be able to hear about him. Then Joseph says, “God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20b). Joseph experienced tremendous pain – heartache, difficulty, problems, but God used all of that for incredible good – the saving of many lives. And as it turned out, not just the people of Egypt, but also his own family – including the very men who did him wrong – his brothers.

Can you relate to Joseph? Perhaps God has used the most painful experiences in your life involving believers who betrayed you to help and bless others. He has used your weaknesses and failures much more than He has used your so-called strengths. It is important for us to see God’s ability to do far more through our trials or failures than through our successes. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means that many can gain through our pain!

The religious leaders had evil intentions toward Jesus, but God intended to bring good from their rejection of His Son. Jesus’ death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross would pay the penalty for the sins of the world so that all who believe in Him may be reconciled to God and have everlasting life (John 3:14-16; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:16).

Christ’s work in our lives can turn enemies into friends. He can bring men and women back into harmony with each other. But it begins by resolving our conflict with God. The Bible says that before we come to Jesus Christ we are in conflict with God. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Romans 5:10). Before we became Christians, we were God’s “enemies” because of our sin. God hates sin (Genesis 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9), but He loves the sinner (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ came to this world to make peace between humanity and God, to resolve this conflict. This is the key place to begin in resolving conflict in all of our relationships. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be “reconciled to God.” The moment we believe in Christ “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Once we gain peace with God we can learn to live peacefully with one another.

“As parts of the same body, our anger against each other has disappeared. For both of us have been reconciled to God and so the feud ended at the cross.” (Ephesians 2:16 – TLB). Paul is talking about conflict between nations in this verse, but this works between people too. “The feud ended at the cross.” God is able to resolve the conflicts in our lives. Many conflicts between people could be solved overnight, if both parties involved would come to know Christ because of the power that He has to resolve those conflicts we face in our lives.

For me, this is the most everyday advice I could give anyone. In my relationships with people, my relationship to Jesus Christ more than anything else sets the tone for the ability to handle the conflicts that we face. He gives me the ability to think in a different way and relate in a different way. Finding the love of Christ helped me find the forgiveness in my life that built the foundation of strength for all of my relationships. Finding the love of Christ also gives me the strength to forgive others. If you are going to resolve conflicts you have got to have that strength. 

What relationship in your life still has walls to tear down? Whom do you despise? Maybe you dislike the way they look, talk, walk, laugh, and work. You detest being near to them. How can Christ slowly take down those walls one brick at a time so you can live peacefully with them? Ask Him to show you. He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:13-14) and He can teach us to live in harmony with others.

Prayer: Dear Lord God Almighty, Your ways are so much higher than ours. While evil politicians proposed the death of Jesus to advance their own plans and welfare, You providentially intended Jesus’ substitutionary death to save the nation of Israel and the entire world from eternal death. And not only that, Christ’s death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Over and over again we see throughout history that sin divides people, but our Savior died to unite people of all colors, cultures, and countries. Many of us are not able to resolve conflicts with people because we are still in conflict with You. Our sin separates us from You, Oh Lord. But Your only Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile us to You. Oh Lord, I pray that those who are still in conflict with You will recognize that Jesus can resolve that conflict by freely forgiving all their sins and giving them eternal life the moment they believe in Him alone. Then He can give them the strength to love and forgive those they are in conflict with. And if we are all honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are people in our lives that we despise for whatever reason. Please show us today how we can begin the process of taking down those walls we have built so we can live peacefully them. It may begin with the words, “I am truly sorry for what I have done. I was only thinking of myself. Help me to see things as you do.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 215.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Gospels, (David C Cook: Kindle Edition, 2018), pg. 640.

3. Ibid, pp. 640-641.